Another tax day has come and passed only to once again remind us of the increasing financial burden that government places on individuals and families each year. Unfortunately, as taxes and onerous regulation continue to increase, the U.S. personal savings rate has decreased to 5.5 percent. Our savings rate was two to three times higher than that in the 1970s and 1980s, with a peak of 17 percent in 1975.
Today, many lack the recommended savings level of three to six months of income. In fact, according to a recent Federal Reserve survey, only 53 percent of adults would be able to cover an emergency expense of $400 without selling an asset or borrowing.
Part of the problem is the tax code being too complex, making it difficult for people to understand their options to invest and save for the future. A more streamlined and flexible saving account to enable and encourage savings is needed. To that end, we have introduced the Universal Savings Account Act, legislation that will empower all individuals to set aside money for all of life’s challenges and opportunities.
Similar to Roth Individual Retirement Accounts, the Universal Savings Accounts established in our bill are designed to offer tax-free earnings and distributions without the restrictions, confusion, and penalties associated with other tax-advantaged accounts. With these accounts, any American adult could save and invest up to $5,500 per year of post-tax income without being burdened by additional taxes when those investments grow.
While existing savings options are complicated and limited in their practicality, Universal Savings Accounts will be simple, flexible, and easy to use. While we anticipate that Universal Savings Accounts could be a boon to those looking to supplement retirement or college tuition savings, these tax-free accounts could just as easily be used to help save for the medical expenses, the purchase of car or home, or other costs incurred in everyday life.
Universal Savings Accounts would have the added benefit of reducing double taxation and expanding national savings. With a growth rate of only 0.7 percent in the 4th quarter of 2015, it’s imperative Congress advance tools such as Universal Savings Accounts that incentivize both savings and investment.
Tax day should really be a reminder that there’s no better way to empower our cash-strapped middle class than to allow Americans to keep and save more of their hard-earned wages. Making Universal Savings Accounts a reality is a great way to jumpstart that effort.